You know who they are—children who lose everything: homework assignments, library books, mittens, wallets, hats, coats and scarves. "Here today, gone tomorrow" is their motto. An endless source of frustration for parents and teachers, "losers" are the most frustrated of all: they waste their own precious time and lose objects they value.

To add insult to injury, losers also get blamed for having ignoble character traits like "carelessness" or "laziness" when, in fact, they are suffering from a brain glitch. The ability to be organized and to remember where we put things is a process that can be affected only partially by conscious intent. We can certainly learn tricks and tools that will increase our recall, but our natural disposition for these activities is determined by brain functioning. Similarly, we can raise our intelligence scores by exposing ourselves to lots of stimuli – but only a little. Our inherent intelligence remains fairly constant. We can increase other traits by effort also – we can enhance our creativity and encourage certain talents, for instance – but only to some extent. Inherent ways of functioning are, well, inherent. We're born with them. Your organized child never taught himself to be that way; she was just born that way. Your child who suffers from strephosymbolia (reversal of letters and numbers) isn't doing that on purpose either – his brain is doing it for him. Similarly, the child who constantly forgets and loses things is suffering from a brain deficit—it isn't his fault!

What does this mean for you as a parent? Should you just give up trying to help your youngster do something he obviously can't do? No. There are, as I mentioned earlier, some tricks that you can teach your disorganized youngster that will help reduce losses. However, knowledge is power. Now that you know that the brain is responsible for this losing tendency, you won't be surprised when even your best "tricks" fail to produce consistently positive results. A better strategy than trying to outsmart the brain may be to teach your child to compensate for his deficit. He needs to work around it.

For instance, when adult losers have super-organized spouses or secretaries, they function better. Although your child isn't likely to have either of those advantages just yet, he can be taught how to enlist help or create systems to help prevent losses (as opposed to help strengthen memory networks). For instance, let's say a child has trouble getting the homework sheet home and then, if he managed to bring it home, rarely remembers to bring it back to school. It may be possible for the teacher to fax the homework to Mom and for Mom to fax back the completed assignment. Will this help Junior with his memory problem? Of course not! However, it will get his schoolwork done. This is an example of working around the problem. For important things like homework, this approach may be better than trying to cure what might in fact be an incurable brain glitch. However, Mom is free to continue to try, using other common losses like jackets, schoolbags and so on as the subjects of her efforts.

Why does G‑d give us brain glitches in the first place? We'll never know of course, but one reason that we can suggest is that the presence of imperfection can cause us to work on character traits like being judgmental and intolerant. Instead of screaming at our children for something that isn't even their fault, we can learn that G‑d makes different kinds of people with different kinds of strengths and weaknesses. Rather than get all judgmental about how "easy" it is to remember where one puts one's keys, we can work on developing our compassion and empathy for those who find it difficult. And since G‑d judges us midda k'neged midda (exactly the way we judge others), hopefully we will find ourselves experiencing more compassion from those around us for our own, very human, imperfections.